January 26, 2006

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FILM: End of the Spear (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

Jesus loves all the little children of the world, even the stereotyped savage jungle children who grow up naked and violent, in End of the Spear, a missionary-positive tail of a boy and his favorite indigenous person.

This is not a subtle movie. The main family’s last name is Saint (just because that was the las name of the family on which this story was based doesn’t make it right. There’s a lot of talk about who’s “ready” to die and who isn’t, presumably because of their non-saved status. The missionaries call out to each other with a hearty “hey missionaries.” If your reaction to all this is a big eye-roll and a heavy sigh, well, don’t worry, I doubt this film will be in theaters more than a few weeks.

Lil’ Stevie Saint (Chase Ellison) — who is, I believe, actually referred to as “Stevie boy” on a few occasions — just adores his dad, Nick Saint (Chad Allen). Nick is a missionary in the Ecuadorian jungle, all milk-and-Wonderbread blandness and Midwestern values. He wants to spread the message of condescending tolerance to the Waodani, a warrior tribe that lives in the jungle and follows an eye-for-an-eye code that results in lots of spearing. He and a few of his missionary buddies fly into the jungle, land on a sandbar and proceed to make friends with the natives via the wonders of a 8mm film camera, lemonade and the small plane that the natives call a “wooden bee.” All this hands-across-the-Amazon stuff works until a misunderstanding within the Waodani leads the tribespeople, led by Mincayani (Louie Leonardo), to attack and kill all of the missionaries. To assure us that their deaths are not in vain their assorted wives decide to go out to talk to the Waodani, joined by Dayume (Christina Souza), a Waodani girl who was raised by missionaries after her family semi-abandoned her. She tries to introduce her people to the idea that the big spear carrier in the sky wants them to stop their cycle of vengeance and love each other.

Years later, Big Stevie (Allen) returns to the jungle to honor the death of his missionary aunt. He is reunited with Mincayani, who has been carrying the guilt of Nick Saint’s death lo these many years.

Forgiveness, yay! is how I’d sum up this story. Also, missionaries, yay! And, acceptance of Christianity, yay! Agree, disagree but you can’t deny that this makes for some pretty one-dimensional storytelling and a pretty boring 108 minutes in the theater. And for those who think my not-impressed-ness is somehow religious in nature, replace “Christianity” with anything else — acceptance of Buddha, Oprah, the South Beach diet, the Gold’s Gym workout plan — and you still have a boring movie. One-note is one-note, no matter what that one-note is. Though, watching a bunch of Waodani don yoga pants and try to follow a cardio class might have been marginally more exciting than this plot.

D

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